The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday unanimously adopted a French-drafted resolution to commence formal negotiations between UN chief Kofi Annan and the Lebanese government on the establishment of a tribunal to try the killers of former Premier Rafik Hariri.
In a closed-door session, the 15-member panel voted to take the final step toward establishing the hybrid court; it will now be up to Lebanese authorities and Kofi Annan to determine the final details of the tribunal. A draft resolution sponsored by the U.S., the U.K., and France was circulated to the Security Council this week. It affirmed the international community's desire to establish a hybrid tribunal along the lines drafted by Lebanese and UN authorities. According to a Lebanese judicial source, the tribunal's "international character" will primarily mean that the judge panel overseeing the trials will consist of three international judges selected by the UN and two Lebanese judges selected by the Lebanese government. This will give international judges the ultimate say, as they have enjoyed in previous hybrid tribunals. The draft affirms that those behind the "terrorist" bombing that killed Hariri must be brought to justice, while respecting the sovereignty and wishes of Lebanon. The draft declares that the Security Council is willing to "assist Lebanon in the search for the truth and in holding all those involved in this terrorist attack responsible." Lebanese Justice Minister Charles Rizk has previously argued that the tribunal should operate under Lebanese law. But international law will take precedence in cases of disagreement between the two. The judicial source said that the tribunal will not use the death penalty, as it is allowed under Lebanese law but forbidden under international law. The source said that certain countries on the UN Security Council have opposed any expansion of the tribunal's mandate to include other crimes, such as the assassinations of anti-Syrian journalists Gebran Tueni and Samir Kassir. Both Druze leader MP Walid Jumblatt and the head of the UN team investigating Hariri's assassination, Serge Brammertz, have said that the tribunal could expand to include the prosecution of the series of high-profile crimes committed in Lebanon over the past 18 months. The source suggested that the trial would likely be held in Cyprus in order to minimize costs, especially costs regarding the transportation of witnesses and suspects. This comes contrary to public statements made earlier this month by Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamade that the court would take place in either Geneva or Vienna. The UN draft resolution leaves undecided the formation of a financing mechanism, which may be the most important factor determining the efficient and timely progress of the trial.